Greenwich in 1838
GREENWICH, a market-town, parliamentary borough, and parish in the hundred of Blackheath and county of Kent, on the right bank of the river Thames, five miles east-south-east from London.
The chief object of interest is the hospital. It occupies the site of an old palace called Greenwich House, which being in a dilapidated state at the period of the Restoration was ordered to be taken down and a new one erected in its place. The architect selected for this new work was Webb, son-in-law of Inigo Jones, under whose superintendence the present north-western wing was built, and became the occasional residence of Charles II. No further progress towards completion was however made till the reign of William III., whose wife, it is said, having suggested the plan of founding an asylum for disabled seamen belonging to the royal navy, it was determined, upon the recommendation of Sir Christopher Wren, that the unfinished palace of Greenwich should be enlarged and adapted to that purpose.
The property was forthwith vested in the hands of trustees and commissioners appointed. The sum of £2,000 per annum was granted by the king ; the commissioners themselves contributed nearly £8,000 ; and Sir Christopher Wren undertook to superintend the work without any pecuniary emolument. The foundation was laid June 3, 1696, and the whole of the super-structure then contemplated was finished within two years, though the hospital was not opened for the reception of pensioners until 1705. In the year of the foundation an act was passed, 7 and 8 William III, cap. 21, by which 6 pence per month of the wages of all seamen belonging to the royal navy is appropriated to the benefit of the institution.
Since that time large sums have been bequeathed by benevolent individuals for the use of the hospital, and the buildings have been successively enlarged and improved. The whole now consists of four quadrangular piles, built principally of Portland stone, and designated by the names of the kings or queens in whose reigns they were erected, viz. King Charles's building on the north-west, Queen Anne's on the north-east, King William's on the south-west, and that of his consort Queen Mary on the south-east. The two latter include the Chapel and Painted Hall. The Chapel was erected from a design of James Stuart, and is highly ornamented. The Hall, a noble room opposite to the Chapel, was painted by Sir James Thornhill, and contains a fine collection of paintings, consisting of naval portraits and sea-fights.
The management of the establishment is in the hands of a governor, lieutenant-governor, two chaplains, and numerous other officers. The pensioners, of whom we believe there are at the present time (1838) nearly 3,000, receive their maintenance, clothing, and lodging, besides a weekly allowance for pocket money. Originally the hospital was open solely to seamen of the royal navy : but by the 10 Anne, cap. 27, it is enacted that the seamen of the merchant service shall contribute equally with those of the royal navy ; and that such of the former as may be wounded in the defence of property belonging to her majestys subjects, or otherwise disabled while capturing vessels from an enemy, shall also be admitted to the benefits of the institution. The money received from visitors and from other sources is appropriated to the support of a school ; wherein upwards of 4,000 boys have been educated from the foundation of the establishment to the present time.
The town is partially paved, lighted with gas and supplied with water from the Kent water-works at Deptford, but the streets are for the most part narrow, and the houses mean and irregular. The park, which comprises near 200 acres, is diversified with lawns, and well planted with elms and chestnut trees. Upon an eminence is situated the royal observatory, commonly called Flamsteed House ; and it is from the meridian of this observatory that the longitudes are computed in all British maps.
About a mile to the west of Greenwich is the royal dockyard of Deptford, established by Henry VIII, in the fourth year of his reign, which comprises a space of about thirty-one acres, wherein the ships of the royal were formerly built and repaired. The town communicates with the metropolis by means of a railway on arches of brick, which commences hear London Bridge. The population of Greenwich and Deptford in 1831 was 45,929. Both towns are within the diocese of Rochester. The living of St. Marys, Greenwich, is a vicarage worth £1,013 per annum in the patronage of the crown ; and that of St. Nicholas, Deptford, is in the gift of the bishop of the diocese, with an average net income of £557. At Greenwich there are schools for the children of naval non-commissioned officers and sailors, at which about 800 boys and 200 girls are boarded, clothed, fed, and instructed. By the provisions of 2 William IV, c. 45, Greenwich was erected into a parliamentary borough, which sends two members to parliament ; the limits of the borough include the parishes of Deptford, Woolwich, and a part of Charlton, and contained in 1831 a population of 65,917.